Predictive testing for Huntington disease (HD) has been offered in some parts of Canada for nearly 5 years. Candidates who were expected to have a significant likelihood for psychological problems were those who received an increased risk for developing HD. Sixty-six persons have now received such an increased risk result. In this manuscript we describe in detail the experience of 4 such persons who were chosen to illustrate recurrent and common themes which have emerged during counselling, and to highlight the strategies of coping with this information. Themes include difficulties communicating about HD, defensive postures adopted in preparing for testing, ramifications of testing for the whole family, and the impact of being at high risk on the candidates' perception of the future. One candidate has had testing postponed due to active suicidal risk. Only a few candidates have expressed regret at taking the test and no person receiving an increased risk result has made a suicide attempt or required hospitalization. After receiving results, symptoms of depression and anxiety are most common in the first 2 months, but over 1 year, candidates, in general, have less depression but live with a heightened perception of the present. The potential risk of premature diagnosis of HD in an individual with an increased risk results is highlighted. The significant ramifications of testing for the relative are shown. The importance of communication as a means of establishing a social support network, as well as the hazards of open communication, are discussed. Longitudinal evaluation will provide much needed data on the long-term effects of living at increased risk for HD.
Comment In: Am J Med Genet. 1992 Feb 15;42(4):491-81535176